After the regular season, the National Football League (NFL) Playoffs are conducted to select the league’s champion. This year’s playoffs will include seven teams from each conference. In the event of a tie, a method for breaking the tie exists. For the title game, two teams from each conference face off in the Super Bowl: one from the East and the other from the West.

As far back as the inaugural NFL Championship Contest in 1933, qualifying for the game was based entirely on regular-season results. From 1933 to 1966, the NFL playoffs were limited to the NFL Championship Game, which played two division champions against each other (pending any one-game playoff matches that needed to be held to break ties in the division standings).

Four teams were added to the playoffs in 1967 (division winners). The playoffs were extended from eight teams to 10 in 1978, twelve in 1990, and fourteen in 2020 after the league merged with the American Football League (AFL) in 1970. A single-elimination tournament is used for every round in all four major professional sports leagues in the United States.

NFL Playoffs explained

AFC and NFC are the two divisions of the National Football League, which consists of 32 teams in total (NFC). Since 2002, each conference has been split into four divisions, each with four teams. The playoff qualifying process looks like this starting in 2020: They are ranked based on their overall winning-lost-tied record, with the four division winners of each conference being placed 1 through 4.

Three wild-card teams from each conference are ranked 5, 6, and 7 based on their league’s overall winning percentage. In the event of a tie in the regular-season standings, a set of tie-breaking rules is used to decide the playoff seeding.

It was in 1978, when the league introduced a second wild card team to each conference, that the first two rounds of the playoffs got their names. The wild-card round is the opening round of the playoffs (or super wild-card weekend). Second-place division winner hosts the seventh-place wild card, the third-place division winner hosts the sixth-place wild card, and the fourth-place division winner hosts the fifth-place wild card in this round. All teams from the same division may face each other in any round, with no limits.

By virtue of winning their division, each conference’s best-performing team earns a first-round bye and is automatically seeded for their second-round matchup, which is known as a divisional matchup. With the higher seed hosting, the other two wild-card winners face off against each other.

AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, which are hosted by the higher-seeded teams in each conference, pit their respective divisional-round playoff champions against one another. The Super Bowl, which is held at a predetermined neutral venue, pits the victors of those events against one another.